NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Quarterback Jake Locker has retired from football rather than hit free agency after four NFL seasons with the Tennessee Titans, saying he no longer has the “burning desire” needed to keep playing the game for a living.
Locker wrote Tuesday in a statement released through his agent, Camron Hahn, that he decided to retire after talking with his family. Locker officially became a free agent when his contract expired Tuesday.
“Football has always played a pivotal role in my life and I love the game, but I no longer have the burning desire necessary to play the game for a living,” Locker, 26, said in the statement. “To continue to do so would be unfair to the next organization with whom I would eventually sign. I realize this decision is surprising to many, but I know in my heart that it is the right decision and I look forward to spending more time with my family and pursuing other interests.”
The Titans drafted Locker with the eighth pick overall out of Washington in 2011, but he was benched last October. He played behind Matt Hasselbeck in his first season, then was named the starter for 2012.
But Locker missed 14 of his first 32 potential starts because of injuries, and the Titans declined to pick up his 2015 option with a new coach in Ken Whisenhunt.
Locker played only seven games with five starts in 2014 because of separate injuries before Whisenhunt benched him for rookie Zach Mettenberger.
Locker played in 30 games in his career, starting 23, and he threw for 4,967 yards with 27 touchdowns and 22 interceptions and a career 57.5 completion percentage. The mobile quarterback also averaged 6.8 yards per carry and ran for 644 yards with five touchdowns.
There were questions about his future going into last season with the second head coach of his career and a third different offensive coordinator. The Titans had drafted Mettenberger in the sixth round and signed veteran Charlie Whitehurst.
Locker said last year at the start of training camp that winning drove him, not money. During his time in Tennessee, the Titans had only one winning record at 9-7 in his rookie season.
“I’ve been fortunate,” Locker said last July. “My wife and I have been smart with our money, and we have. We’re fine. We don’t have to worry about it.
So I get the freedom and the ability to go out and play for this football team and have fun.”
Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan, Tennessee’s top draft pick last season, wrote on Twitter that Locker was one of the most genuine people he had ever met.
“He will be successful no matter!” Lewan wrote.